The Carolina Hurricanes head into a six-game road trip, beginning Monday against the Winnipeg Jets, riding a wave of momentum.
Carolina is on a four-game (3-0-1) point streak, including a lopsided 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.
The Hurricanes built a 5-0 lead through two periods, outshot the Sabres by a 35-22 margin, and went 2-for-2 on the power play and 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. Brady Skjei even tallied a short-handed goal in the third period to add to the special teams’ dominance.
The game was “absolutely … up there” with the Hurricanes’ best performances of the season, Sebastian Aho said.
“It just counts for the two points, but it’s nice to have that kind of effort. Obviously a nice way to end this homestand, and that sets the tone for the big road trip,” Aho said.
Aho scored twice Saturday, giving him six points (three goals, three assists) in his last four games. The star forward has more multi-point games (seven) than zero-point games (five) this season.
The Hurricanes are 6-6-0 in away games this season, and an impressive 8-2-1 on home ice.
The Jets will start a four-game road swing of their own after finishing their four-game homestand on Monday. Winnipeg defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 on Saturday to get its first win of the homestand and end a three-game losing streak.
Saturday game displayed more of the type of gritty, defense-focused hockey that has become the Jets’ specialty over the last month. Winnipeg is 9-4-0 in its last 13 games, limiting opponents to three or fewer goals in any of those contests.
Winnipeg has a modest 44 goals over those 13 games, but coach Rick Bowness felt his team had a more open and productive offensive game against Chicago.
“We spent a lot more time in their zone,” Bowness said. “We used our (defensemen) a lot better tonight than in the previous games. We changed the point of attack, east-to-west. … We create offense when our defense (is) involved.”
The Hurricanes are allowing an average of 24.7 shots per game and the Jets 27.8 shots per game, both among the NHL’s best. However, Carolina hasn’t been able to efficiently limit opponents from scoring, as Hurricanes goaltenders have combined for a league-low .873 save percentage.
Pyotr Kochetkov has started each game during Carolina’s four-game points streak, though he would have sat against Buffalo if Antti Raanta hadn’t been feeling ill.
Raanta was well enough to still dress as the backup, so he might start Monday if he has fully recovered by game time.
Connor Hellebuyck has started 18 of the Jets’ 23 games, and is likely to get the call again Monday. The workhorse goaltender is enjoying another excellent season, with a .912 save percentage and 2.49 goals against average.
Mark Schiefele leads all Jets skaters with 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists). The forward added to his total Saturday with a power-play goal goal in the first period to equalize for Winnipeg.
Forward Vladislav Namestnikov didn’t play against the Blackhawks, and is expected to miss his second consecutive game due to a lower-body injury.